Overeating is a problem affecting more Americans today than ever before, and one reason behind it is the delicious food available to us. Dr. Kessler, a pediatrician and former head of the Food and Drug Administration, discusses some of the issues.
When it comes to stimulating our brains, Dr. Kessler noted, individual ingredients aren’t particularly potent. But by combining fats, sugar and salt in innumerable ways, food makers have essentially tapped into the brain’s reward system, creating a feedback loop that stimulates our desire to eat and leaves us wanting more and more even when we’re full.
Thanks to advancements in technology, the foods being pumped out are getting better and better.
But today, foods are more than just a combination of ingredients. They are highly complex creations, loaded up with layer upon layer of stimulating tastes that result in a multisensory experience for the brain. Food companies “design food for irresistibility,” Dr. Kessler noted. “It’s been part of their business plans.”
The controversial part of Dr. Kessler’s message is about how to deal with it.
One of his main messages is that overeating is not due to an absence of willpower, but a biological challenge made more difficult by the overstimulating food environment that surrounds us. “Conditioned hypereating” is a chronic problem that is made worse by dieting and needs to be managed rather than cured, he said. And while lapses are inevitable, Dr. Kessler outlines several strategies that address the behavioral, cognitive and nutritional factors that fuel overeating.
Some people do have a genuine problem, and Dr. Kessler may be one of them. The danger here is that others in a position of power see this research and conclude that the problem is with the food, rather than with the individuals taking responsibility for their own choices. Many people are able to eat all those delicious foods and live long, healthy lives, which has not stopped government regulators from putting the blame on the food. It’s also interesting to note that no mention of exercise as a factor occurs in the article.